Cooking the books

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Cooking the books is an interesting idiom with its roots in a seventeenth century definition of the word cook. We will examine the definition of the expression cooking the books, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Cooking the books means manipulating the financial records and accounting records of a business in order to disguise losses or to disguise embezzlement. Cooking the books is illegal, as it is designed to falsify the true financial health of a business or institution. The term cooking the books is based in an old secondary definition of the word cook, which is to present something that has been altered in an underhanded way. By the mid-1800s the term cooking the books had come into use to mean manipulating financial records in order to deceive. Related phrases are cook the books, cooks the books, cooked the books.


Again referring to Mr Farrell’s opening statement, Mr Treacy asked the witness if he had heard the quotes from Monday’s hearing “putting the toothpaste back into the tube” or “cooking the books not once but twice”. (The Independent)

A Yonkers woman has admitted cooking the books to steal almost $250,000 from her Tarrytown employer, officials said.  (The Journal News)

The State prosecutor in the trial of Independent TD Michael Lowry for tax evasion has said it was a case of the accused and his company “cooking the books, not just once but twice”. (The Irish Times)

SADIQ Khan was accused of “cooking the books” over how many affordable homes are being built in London in a fiery exchange with a Tory councillor today. (The Daily Express)

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